Role of elusive businessman in Kerala smuggling racket baffles probe team
The multi-agency team probing the Kerala gold smuggling case has come across a Middle East-based elusive businessman Dawood al Arabi after interrogating some of the accused. They reportedly told the agencies that he invested heavily in the smuggling network and runs a thriving hawala racket also, a senior officer part of the investigation team said.
Officials suspect that he may be an Indian but took a fictitious name to confuse authorities. One of the main accused K T Ramees was the first to take his name and later others also named him. Now agencies are trying to ascertain whether this is a real name or a fake one. During investigation they also found that the accused were using code names in WhatasApp and Telegram chats.
They expect after interrogating Rabin Hameed, who was extradited from the UAE on Monday, they will get more information on this kingpin. Usually in smuggling cases carriers and their immediate contacts are arrested and funders and end- users always slip out. This time central agencies have been given clear instructions to get to the bottom of the racket that is posing a serious threat to the economy of the country.
Despite the high-profile case smuggling continues unabated-- the in last one week 25 kg of gold was seized from four international airports in different cases.
In the remand report of Hameed, the NIA said he played an important role in the network and suspected to have links with subversive elements. He was later remanded to the custody of NIA for five days. He is 10th accused in the NIA’s probe. A senior official said third accused Faizal Fareed will also be extradited from Dubai in a couple of days. Both were reportedly arrested by Dubai police after the NIA alerted it. Earlier it had issued a blue corner notice against them after securing arrest warrants from a local court. “We are at the fag end of our investigation and we will not spare anyone involved in the crime,” said the official.
The sensational smuggling case surfaced on July 5 after 30 kg of gold was seized by the customs from a package camouflaged as a diplomatic consignment addressed to the UAE consulate. Later PS Sarith Kumar, a former public relations officer of the consulate who came to receive the luggage, was arrested. Two other suspects, Swapna Suresh and her accomplice Sandip Nair, were arrested from their hideout in Bengaluru five days later. CM’s former secretary M Sivasankar, a senior IAS officer, was suspended after his alleged links with Suresh surfaced. The High Court had stayed his arrest till Oct 28.
A multi-agency team comprising the National Investigation Agency, Enforcement Directorate, Directorate of Revenue Intelligence, Customs and Income Tax is probing the case and 31 people have been arrested so far. There are reports that smuggling was going on for more than a year through the UAE consulate and they smuggled at least 400 kg of gold in several consignments. Kerala higher education minister K T Jaleel was also investigated in connection with one of the consignments that came last March. But the minister said the consignment carried only religious books. Interrogated twice, central agencies are yet to give him a clean chit.
In a related development, the statement of wife of accused Sandip Nair was leaked out to the media. In her statement to the ED she reportedly said her husband was working for a smugglers’ gang in Koduvally, a small town in Kozhikode known for its gold ornaments and designs, and it was controlled by legislator Karat Razak, CPI (M)-backed independent. But the MLA denied this and said it was part of a conspiracy to implicate him in the case. Earlier another CPI (M) leader from the area Karat Faizal was also questioned by the Customs and ED.